How to Remove Bad Ads From Your Website

Trish Manrique Ad Ops

When you’ve got advertising space on your website, it’s entirely likely that at some point you’ll come across malicious, spammy, or downright illegal ads. And, unfortunately, your website visitors will likely see these ads before you do.

With almost every modern internet user seeing advertisements and website content as two sides of the same coin, it can seriously harm your reputation to have bad ads appearing on your website. But where do these bad ads come from, and how can you keep them away from your website? Let’s take a look. 

Where Do Bad Ads Come From?

With the vast growth of programmatic advertising, it’s no surprise that malicious actors have begun using advertising networks to spread their information and, in some cases, malware. 

If you’re using an ad platform to serve advertisements to your website visitors, bad ads are a common problem. While these platforms are a great way to monetize your website, nearly every ad platform in existence will host bad ads without intending to. 

The main reason why programmatic ad platforms are used by bad advertisers is that it allows them to maintain relative anonymity while generating revenue, both through the ad itself and any scams or malware it links to.

While you might think that using a premium ad platform will stop bad ads from appearing on your website, it’s worth noting that for many sophisticated cybercriminals, a higher cost per mille (CPM) doesn’t necessarily deter them. 

Categories of Bad Ads

As with other forms of advertising, not all bad ads are created equal. Here are the key categories of bad ads to look out for.

Scams/Fraud

The ad leads to a landing page that intends to scam the user with a fraudulent product or service. The ad and landing page might be spoofed to look like a legitimate, existing business, or it may be advertised under its own name. In some cases, the ad may be for one thing, but when clicked, leads to a completely different landing page. At Sortable, a common tactic we’ve seen recently are ads that look related to political or celebrity news, but lead to bitcoin or investment scams.

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Malware/Phishing

The ad leads to a landing page designed to harvest personal information as part of a phishing scam. The landing page may say the user has won a prize or warning users that their device has a virus and needs the user to enter their personal information to move forward. The landing page may also be programmed to automatically download malware onto the user’s computer with or without them noticing. 

How Do You Stop Bad Ads?

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to stop bad ads from appearing on ad platforms. As it stands, it’s simply too easy for bad advertisers to sign up and have their ads displayed before the platform notices and stops the ads from being distributed. 

Since the dawn of online advertising technology, there’s always been an inherent struggle between bad advertisers and platforms. Just as platforms adapt to a new trend in malicious or scammy advertising, those advertisers have changed their tactics and adapted. 

At the heart of it, publishers must take proper precautions to prevent bad advertising on their network. However, given the nature of programmatic advertising, it’s almost impossible for publishers to sift through every advertisement and check its integrity. 

For publishers to be able to stop bad ads from appearing, they would need to hire a dedicated team that continuously checked any advertisements in their network for malicious code, scams, spam, or phishing attempts. This would, of course, be a significant cost for ad platforms, given that they would need to hire highly skilled professionals to be able to check an advertisement’s code. This would undoubtedly lead to advertisers with lower budgets leaving the network because they can’t afford the increased fees. 

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Many demand and Ad Ops partners like Sortable are putting an effort in preventing bad ads, but bad actors continue to evolve in their technology and methods making it difficult to completely eradicate them from the World Wide Web. 

As a website owner, this doesn’t give you much scope for stopping bad ads on your own. So, what can you do to make sure you only allow legitimate advertisers to promote on your website?

What Can You Do To Avoid Bad Ads?

One way to avoid bad ads is to either work with advertisers directly, or partner with an Ad Ops partner like Sortable

Directly contacting and vetting advertisers yourself is a great way to make sure that the only ads that appear on your website are ones that you’ve already approved. This way, your audience isn’t served ads that don’t align with your content, and you can, quite simply, refuse to work with bad advertisers.

However, this solution won’t work for everyone; large organizations with a busy schedule might not have this on the top of your to-do list, and small organizations might not have the resources to source direct ads or volume  required by most advertisers. Add to that the fact that it’s not always easy to spot a bad advertiser if you’re not well-versed in advertising yourself. That’s where Sortable comes in. 

At Sortable, our team of advertising specialists work as an intermediary between you and our trusted network of advertisers. Not only do we only offer premium advertising partners like Google and Amazon, but we have our own in-house Ad Quality team that proactively ensures only trustworthy buyers have access to our publishers’ inventory and work reactively to block any malicious ads that do slip through. 

Sortable is also partnered with Confiant to help protect our publishers’ sites from bad ads. Since we rolled out Confiant in July 2018, we’ve seen a dramatic reduction of malicious and fraudulent ads. Confiant checks every ad, in real time, against a database of confirmed malicious JavaScript code, unsafe creatives, and untrusted domains, and then blocks any ad from serving if it is deemed unsafe. In addition to blocking ads that are known to be an issue, if Confiant even suspects that an ad may be an issue, the creative is prevented from displaying. In the few cases that this applies, the benefits of blocking possible redirects outweigh the risks of potentially blocking legitimate ads.  

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At Sortable, we’re also on hand to help you optimize and maintain your advertising for you, taking the stress and guesswork out of monetizing your website. Plus, our user-friendly platform makes it easy to understand how well your advertising partnership is performing.

What do you do if you come across a bad ad?

Every Ad Ops partner may have a different process. At Sortable, we recommend contacting your account manager or sending us an email at success@sortable.com with as much of the following information as possible:

  • Description of the issue, including frequency
  • Screenshot of the offending creative (containing the time and date, if possible)
  • Date and time (including timezone) when it occurred
  • URL of the page on which the ad was seen
  • Platform, OS, and browser 
  • Geographical location of user (city, state, country)
  • IP address of user
  • Position of the ad on the page
  • Advertiser URL (if you click on the ad, where does it go?)
  • Text file containing the full ad HTML call

The more data points that you can provide, the quicker and more effectively our Ad Quality team can resolve the issue. So, if you’re ready to get rid of bad ads on your website for good, contact our expert team today for more information on how our industry-leading platform can maintain your website’s reputation and protect your users from malware.